Sam Bahour on Jared Kushner’s Economic Plan

Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American businessman living through the everyday realities of conflict in his region, discusses whether Jared Kushner’s economic plan is likely to achieve peace in the Middle East.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Why is it not OK to just take this money that’s being offered when so much of it is needed?

SAM BAHOUR, BUSINESSMAN LIVING IN RAMALLAH: Actually, there’s no money being offered to date. What we heard was an announcement of an economic plan of $50 billion. Only 27 allocated to the West Bank and Gaza. Half of that 27 being grants, half of it being loans. And the grants, not U.S. money, but supposedly Arab money. All nice words, nothing has materialized to date. What I would say after being here for 25 years, after moving here from Youngstown, Ohio, working in economic development is it’s a grand plan. It’s great to do economic development in Palestine, but there’s a reason, a real reason why it has not happened to date. Because of 52 years of Israeli military occupation, the restrictions that are placed on us make economic development unable to be addressed in a serious way. So, I have no idea how an economic plan without putting the political parameters in place has even a chance to succeed.

AMANPOUR: Do you expect some of those questions that you’re raising now could be addressed with Jared Kushner’s current trip to the Middle East? You say not a single dollar has been committed. But clearly, he’s out there now trying to raise that money and perhaps trying to ask the Israelis to, you know, do what you think is necessary, in other words, reduce the red tape, you know, allow an economic lifeline to exist.

BAHOUR: He may raise the money, but the issue is not only money. This is not an economic deal for a real estate project. He and the administration are undermining all of the legal found foundation that is the scaffolding for a peace process to actually result in a two-state solution where both Israel and Palestine can live peacefully. Trying to create some $50 billion carrot without a [13:20:00] political parameter is like trying to build a building in New York without asking what are the laws that apply or what are the building codes. We want to build a building. We actually are building a state. But to do that, we need to understand the laws that applied and order the building codes. Where are we able to build our state? Because up until now, Israel has not let any land be available for a real state building. They control what we can and cannot do. I as an individual have documented 101 restrictions that have been placed upon us. If Mr. Kushner can actually get those 101 restrictions removed, that would be great, but we’re not going to pay a political price for our human right, because it is a right.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks to Senator Chris Murphy about gun violence. Sam Bahour discusses whether Jared Kushner’s economic plan is likely to achieve peace in the Middle East. David Friedman joins the program to elaborate on the Trump administration’s economic proposal to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Farai Chideya tells Michel Martin about problems within the U.S. adoption industry.